Of course, Lavan is then chosen by a Companion to become a Herald, thus proving that even though he did this horrible thing, he's a good person at heart, whose abilities will be of utmost importance in defending the Kingdom of Valdemar from the evil religious fanatics to the south. This book does not include: a compelling main character.
:( I quite liked the switching POV between Pol and Lan. So, yeah, loved it.
I feel like this was the part of the book that gripped me the most -- there was emotional tension, palpable danger, and I felt like Lan grew as a character during his time at school. Furthermore, while the writing itself was perfectly serviceable, even enjoyable, there were two big weaknesses to the craft of the novel: (1) dialogue, which bordered on unrealistic and even hokey at times, and (2) action sequences, which were especially notable towards the end of the book where we got detailed descriptions of the armies' movements, but no real sense of the battle, or of the impact of the battle. Furthermore, several times the same sequence of events were retold from both Lan and Pol's perspective with nothing unique or valuable added to the retelling. I guess I rather liked Elenor, which meant that this book was certainly not for me. For the last half of the book she has this completely inexplicable crush on Lan that serves no narrative purpose. It was just mentioned off hand for the purpose of causing Elenor angst (to no real end) and didn't play much of a role except in the last fifteen pages or so of the novel. I'm intrigued enough by the world to try other Valdemar novels by Lackey, but Brightly Burning itself was a disappointment and a trial to read.
The focus of the book shifts to a strange love triangle (between Lavan, a girl called Elenor, and Lavan's Companion, Kalira) and the war between Valdemar and the Karsites. The war is a rather mundane affair, even though it is a main plot point, it has this oddly tacked on feel; the Karsites are typical religious fanatics, who want to wipe out Valdemar, the Companions and Heralds because they are 'evil'. Lavan has a 'life bond' with his Companion, Kalira, a being who isn't a horse, but physically resembles one. Lavan and Kalira's relationship is never developed, the reader is just made to accept that they will never care romantically for anyone except each other, (even though there is barely any basis for these feelings) because of their 'life bond'.
In a way, a lot of the Valdemar books are boarding-school books. There's enough real drama to keep it moving - even the boarding school bullying is genuinely scary - and enough mundane detail to establish the characters involved.
When I'm sick and laying about at home, I want grilled cheese sandwiches and gingerale; when I'm emotionally strung out and need to have an easy, comfortable escape, I read Mercedes Lackey. One of the things I enjoy about fantasy and other speculative fiction is their ability to offer social criticism -- Mercedes Lackey has already written about gay life-bonds, as well as other relationships that are considered risky in the mainstream publishing world.
In addition to her fantasy writing, she has written lyrics for and recorded nearly fifty songs for Firebird Arts & Music, a small recording company specializing in science fiction folk music. When I write the 'folk music' of these peoples, I am enriching my whole world, whether I actually use the song in the text or not. I began writing fantasy because I love it, but I try to construct my fantasy worlds with all the care of a 'high-tech' science fiction writer. I try to keep my world as solid and real as possible; people deal with stubborn pumps, bugs in the porridge, and love-lives that refuse to become untangled, right along with invading armies and evil magicians.